Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Coop Madness!

Countdown to chicken ownership!

Chicks - adorable, fluffy chickies! squee! - started showing up at the local feed store a couple weeks ago. I wanted to take them all home with me. One small problem: we didn't have a functional coop. Some unexpectedly nice weather gave us a chance to remedy that.

They even have a video. It's like a ChickieCam!

The property already has a chicken coop on it, and we know the previous owners raised chickens. And it actually has some cuteness potential - peaky roof, easy entry, sweet little windows. It's also dirty, mossy and more-than-charmingly overgrown with ivy and blackberries, so we inspected it to see if it was salvageable. 

Yes, I'm wearing a dust mask. When I said it was dirty, I. WAS. NOT. KIDDING. 

In some ways, it was better than we hoped. There's a big enclosed run, and we found hardware cloth buried underneath to keep out predators. 

Then we opened the door to the inside part of the coop, and got an odd surprise. What we thought was the inside portion of the coop (on the left, where I'm standing in the picture above), where there would be nesting boxes and roosts ... wasn't. This piece wasn't connected to the rest of the coop at all. It was just a storage shed that shared a wall with the chicken run. 

A lot of what was in there could have been really useful. We found soil amendments, chicken feeders and waterers, bird feeders, automatic timers, and ... mold. A lot of mold. And rot. And ivy growing through the roof. And some Rubbermaid containers which might or might not have held highly corrosive substances. So, sadly, almost everything had to go in the trash. (Insert the sound of my wallet crying.)

After an ENTIRE DAY of cleaning, we were ready to at least start thinking about bringing this coop back to life. First, Brett cut a hole in the wall that separated the run from the inside. We added a hatch with a lock, and a ramp that leads down into the run. This way, the chickens can move between the run and the inside of the coop during the day, but can be tucked inside safely at night. 

Next, we built nesting boxes. This is where the chickens will lay their eggs. We did some research, and came across these guidelines: You want one box for every 2-4 chickens. Each box should only be big enough to comfortably hold one chicken at a time, meaning about 12-16 inches square. Chickens prefer them to be dark, and up off the ground. The top needs to be slanted so that the hens won't sleep on top of their nesting boxes. Having a bar for them to jump onto before they hop into the boxes is a bonus. 

We checked out a bunch of plans. Ultimately, this simple one from Linn Acres Farm felt best to us:

We made ours mostly out of scrap plywood and 1x2. 

It's still sitting on the floor of the shop, but baby steps.
There's already a little ledge for us to put the nesting boxes on, so installation will be fast. All that's really left is to add some good spots to roost. Then there's still a whole lot more cleaning and maintenance we want to do before the fluffballs move in, and some more aesthetic stuff we can do later. Sweeping, painting, and de-mossing, here we come! 

At least that means we'll be working outside, so we can enjoy the sunshine and the spring flowers.


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